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Government's response to litter inquiry long-awaited - but is it adequate?

7 December 2015

Government's response to litter inquiry long-awaited - but is it adequate? Photo @ Maudanros/Shutterstock.com

Over the weekend the Government published its long-awaited response to the Department for Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry into litter (March 2015). The Government then sought to outline a response to the concerning findings by announcing its determination to launch a national campaign against littering.

CPRE's Litter Programme Director Samantha Harding responds below to the Government's moves:

Within 24 hours the Government published a response to one of its own Select Committee inquiries into litter and issued a press release that announced its intention to launch ‘a national clampdown on litter louts’. When you compare the content of its inquiry response and the force of its supposed intention to ‘rid the land of litter scourge’, it’s difficult overall to see how the activities laid out in the first will support the latter.

To start with positive news, there is recognition of the importance of litter monitoring – ie. actually understanding the scale of the problem and what types of litter are the problem. Indeed, a number of references are made throughout the response to the current monitoring – the Local Environmental Quality Survey for England (LEQSE), undertaken by Keep Britain Tidy – in order to prove certain points relating to the scale of the problem. CPRE is clear that as the LEQSE monitoring is currently on hold due to a question about funding, some form of robust monitoring must be reinstated as soon as possible.

Freeing up councils to work on anti-cigarette litter initiatives with the tobacco industry should also be welcomed. CPRE worked with JTI, a major tobacco company, on one such initiative that saw a 71% reduction in cigarette litter. Responsible partnerships between the wider industry and local councils would only open up more opportunities for positive interventions.

The ambitions of the proposed Litter Strategy Advisory Group are less edifying and it is difficult to see at this stage what changes this group is designed to bring about. Reference is made to ‘clarifying contributions’ and ‘setting context for ongoing activity’ but clearly the way things are being done at the moment isn’t delivering the kind of change we need to stop litter being dropped. This group should have a clear goal of addressing why this is, as well as proposing new and innovative solutions that can be replicated nationally without unnecessarily burdensome investment.

It is also unclear at this stage why the Government is so keen on increasing fines for littering, when there is a well-documented problem with councils issuing fines in the first place. It doesn’t matter what size the fine is if people are never issued with it.

But the final piece of good news is that the Government has pledged to explore further funding for a national clean-up day, building on the Keep Britain Tidy-led initiative Clean for the Queen, which will happen in March next year. We know from our LitterAction community that there are huge efforts underway across England to clean up and having a national focus can only help to encourage more people to get involved.

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